In his book the Duck Hunter's Bible, Erwin Bauer wrote: "Duck hunting gives a man a chance to see the loneliest places€¦blinds washed by a rolling surf, blue and gold autumn marshes€¦a rice field in the rain, flooded pin-oak forests or any remote river delta. In duck hunting the scene is as important as the shooting."
He is right about that, and you know as well as we do, to get to these coveted honey holes it takes a tough-as-nails boat and bad-ass motor to match. Today's sleds are stronger and safer than ever, standing up to the worst abuse the marsh can dish out.
And the motors will crank over on the coldest of mornings, ripping through sheet ice to open water so you can smack greenheads as they flutter in for one last fatal landing.
See you at the boat ramp this fall.
Like secret duck holes larger boats can't reach? The Sport is the perfect one-man skiff for traveling light. It's 10'x38" and the cockpit is about 7'x21", enough room for man, dog and a sack full of decoys. It can hold up to 355 pounds. Made from durable roto-molded polyethylene, it weighs just 62 pounds.
$689 | aquapodboats.com
Bankes Freedom 17
It's big enough to handle sea duck surf, yet small enough to tuck into the cattails. Built by big-water duck hunters for big-water duck hunters, the Freedom 17 is made with hand-laid fiberglass and includes a Kevlar-reinforced bow for busting through ice. It's loaded with other features, including a 500 gph bilge, navigation lights and molded-in camo.
$14,995 | bankesboats.com
Cyclops LED Light Bar
The Cyclops 120-watt dual-row light bar throws a blinding 9,000 lumens, making it a little easier to find that public blind in the dark. Built with die-cast aluminum and a polycarbonate lens, it comes with mounting brackets and hardware.
$140 | gsmoutdoors.com
Getting there is half the fun when you're flying across the shallows. Pushed by a powerful airplane motor and carbon-fiber aviator grade propeller, Dragonfly airboats can skim across water, mud, snow, ice and even dry land. The boats are roomy and packed with features: running lights, storage box, kill switch, stainless exhaust and padded seats.
$15,800 | dragonflyairboats.com
Duck Logic Mallard
Looking for a small-water sneak boat? At 13' 7", Duck Logic's Mallard is big enough to carry two hunters and gear, but small enough to slip through places bigger boats can't reach. It weighs just 100 pounds and comes with a variety of options, including a gun rack, extra seat, motor mount and hard cover.
$940 | carstensindustries.com
Duck Water Ocean 23
Steve Hoover knows the challenges of hunting big-water ducks. That's why the hulls on his Ocean series are built with all-welded, 1/4-inch thick, marine-grade aluminum. Bust through ice, nudge up to rocks...this boat takes a beating. Interior and running lights are standard. So is a camo paint job, decoy curtains, a six-gang circuit and motor cover.
$24,995 | duckwaterboats.com
Excel F4 Optifade 1751
Excel partnered with Gore, makers of the popular Optifade camo, to help you hide. Built with a 6-degree V hull and Viper reverse chine, the F4 gives you a faster hole shot, drier ride and better load handling. The Duck Back transom makes loading and unloading dogs and gear a snap.
$6,000 | excelboats.net
Gator Trax Marsh Series
Shallow water keeping you away from the X? Don't fret. Gator Trax has you covered. Their 14x50 or 16x50 will glide through mere inches of water with up to four hunters and all their gear. The low profile allows you to hide in plain sight and the 46-inch wide cockpit has plenty of room for shooting.
$4,550 | gatortraxboats.com
Warren Coco has made Go Devil synonymous with quality. The hull of this 16-footer is built with a single 18-inch thick aluminum sheet for tree-banging durability. A variety of options allow you to personalize your boat for the way you hunt.
$4,450 | godevil.com
Lowe Roughneck 2070 CC
The Roughneck can carry six of your closest hunting buddies and is rated for up to a 150-hp motor. The all-welded 100-gauge hull can take a beating. A center console is standard and the 2070 serves as a great fishing boat, too. It includes a 19-gallon fuel tank, 23-gallon livewell, rod lockers and bow and stern pedestal seat bases.
$20,112 (w/ 90-hp Mercury) | loweboats.com
When a builder only makes one boat, you know it's good. Meskousing's Backwater is designed to slide over shallow water and through the tightest cover with ease. It's 12'x36" and has a roomy 7-foot long cockpit. It weighs a trifling 52 pounds, making it easy to carry over a levy. Throw it over your shoulder and sneak into your favorite marsh.
$1,649 | meskousingboats.com
Mighty UFO Layout
Built with safety in mind, the UFO is constructed of hand-laid fiberglass and includes two stainless anchor rings and a plastic mooring cleat. It's 10' 2"x5'2"and weighs 125 pounds. The cockpit is a roomy 48"x30". The UFO comes with a clear or molded fiberglass spray shield and gray gelcoat.
$1,300 | waterfowl-works.com
New from innovator Ira McCauley, the Fatback is rated for a 7.5-hp motor. A wider back increases stability, and it's 13' long and weighs 120 pounds. Roomy (48" wide), it can handle two heavyweights (550 pounds). The transom is removable and reversible. Optional features include a deck cover, Invisilounge seats, dog door and blind door.
$1,795 | momarsh.com
Pro Drive TDX
The guys at Pro Drive built this boat just for timber hunters. The low rear deck allows for easy exit and entry for man and dog, and the front bumper is beefed up to fend off hull-busting trees. It comes with a gun box, rear seat with storage and large front deck with additional storage. Available in 18' and 20' and three widths (48", 54" and 60")
$6,495 | prodriveoutboards.com
Seeark DXS 1548 SLD
The DXS series includes Extreme Turn Technology to help weave through the timber and dodge hidden stumps. It's built with a welded hull and .100-gauge aluminum to withstand all the abuse that serious duck hunters can dish out. Five optional camo patterns are available and it comes with a built-in gun box.
$5,000 | seaarkboats.com
War Eagle 961 Blackhawk
If you love trophy largemouths as much as trophy greenheads, check out the 961 built on an 18-degree V hull. It incorporates War Eagle's own wings transom for tight turns and smooth rides. Available with a center or side console, livewell, trolling motor bracket and wiring and comes with a 150-hp outboard.
$30,000 | wareagleboats.com
Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.
Of course, it takes power to get a boat to the birds. For every rig on the market, there's the right motor for it. Today's mud motors are more reliable and powerful than ever. They push boats across dense mats of vegetation and boot-sucking mud and skim over water a regular outboard could never cross.
Getting there isn't always half the fun, but with the right rig, you can rest easy knowing you'll get to the ducks. Here are eight of the best mud motor choices for 2016.
Mayhem Mud Motors | $TBD
Big or small, Mayhem has an affordable longtail motor just for your boat, including engines from 6.5-hp to 35-hp. They all come with a sealed bearing system and use a Briggs & Stratton Vanguard electric start motor, which comes with a 3-year guarantee. The cavitation plate is interchangeable and the motor is covered with a zinc powder coat finish.
Mud Buddy HDR | $6,645
Backing up got you down? The new HDR (Hyper Drive Reverse) 25-hp uses an electric shift to go from forward, neutral and reverse with the flick of a switch. Even better, it's packed with add-ons not found on many other mud motors like a stainless steel skeg, stainless drive tube and a Mercury power trim. It's now available in Optifade camo, too.
Go-Devil | $4,095 (27-hp)
Warren Coco brought mud motors to the duck hunting world nearly four decades ago. The company's reputation for quality has kept them at the top of the industry since. Available in 6.5-hp up to a 37-hp model, G-D longtails come with electric starts, bronze bushings, a carbon steel frame and stainless props as standard features.
Backwater Swomp Lite 23 | $3,350
Mud motors are heavy, but the duck men at Backwater managed to shave a few pounds off the SWOMP Lite 23-hp longtail. Weighing 160 pounds, it's one of the lightest mud motors in its class. It comes with a stainless exhaust, stainless/weedless prop, an electric start and backup recoil.
Backwater Performance Systems
Modern mud motors are reliable machines, but there's always more you can add on to soup-up that big block. BPS sells repair parts and upgrades for Briggs & Stratton engines, including carburetor kits, mufflers, EFI systems and more. Make your motor run better and cleaner, or bring it back to life.
BPS also sells a host of accessories like new props, boat blinds and even bowfishing gear. Because duck season has to end sometime.
Pro Drive 37 | $6,670
Built to push a boat through mud as thick as Cajun gumbo, P-D's 37-hp surface-drive is as reliable as it is powerful. It's built with a Vanguard Big Block V-Twin and features a digital CDI ignition, stainless muffler, high-capacity fuel pump and a 20/50 amp alternator. It also comes with hydraulic trim, stainless prop, instant forward and neutral, and optional auto-reverse.
Freedom Motors | $10,450 (40-hp)
Freedom couples the durability and versatility of a mud motor with the power and reliability of an outboard. Available in 40- and 60-hp, they have a closed-loop cooling system, allowing the motor to run in shallow water and mud. They also feature a custom jack plate and a free-float and reverse locking system.
Boss Drives 4400 | $8,145
Yeah, it's a beast. At 44-hp, it's one of the largest manufacturer-made mud motors out there. It not only hauls butt, it's loaded with features like a hydraulic trim, stainless prop, rapid-shift forward, neutral and reverse and twin trim controls. The drive train uses gears instead of belts and it is remote hydraulic steer capable. Bossdrives.com